It takes just under two hours to travel from Houma-based Ellender High School to Salmen in Slidell.
That’s just about how long it took for the top-ranked Spartans to send Ellender home for the season.
Salmen, the top seed in the Class 4A playoffs, defeated ninth-ranked Ellender 58-38 in the quarterfinals on Friday night.
The next stop for Salmen will be Lake Charles, where it will take on McDonogh 35 in the semifinals at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Boys Top 28 Tournament.
“We were very confident coming in,” said Salmen senior Chris Vickers, who scored 12 points against Ellender. “We knew what we could do. We just had to come out and do it. We have to keep doing that in the semifinals.”
The Spartans fell behind 6-4 to start the game, but came alive soon after. After Vickers hit a 10-foot jumper at the 3:44 mark of the first quarter to put Salmen ahead 9-6, the Spartans went on a 13-0 run bridging the first and second quarters. Corey Vinson’s 3-pointer from the far right corner with 5:15 to go in the half made the score 24-9 and Salmen was in control.
The Patriots then fashioned a run of their own, with an 8-3 surge heading toward halftime. But Salmen had the last say when it finished with a 7-0 flurry on an inside basket by Cameron Vickers, two free throws by Cody Rudolph, and a 3-pointer by Alex Taylor.
Salmen led 34-19 at halftime, riding 63 percent shooting from the field.
“That was the best half of basketball we’ve played in a long time,” Salmen coach Jay Carlin said. “Last year in the quarterfinals, we started fast but faded and came up short. I told the team before the season, we can play with anyone if we play our game. We played a great first half, but we knew they were going to make a run. We had to answer.”
Salmen (26-5) did just that, but it took some time.
The Patriots stormed to an 8-0 run to start the third. They rode that streak and closed the score to 34-27 before Vickers slipped in a shot from the lane for Salmen. But Ellender (26-8) came back with an inside basket of its own and a free throw to close the score to 36-31.
The Spartans took a 42-34 lead into the fourth quarter, and went on a 7-0 run that virtually sealed the game. Rudolph scored from the field, Norvel converted two free throws, and Taylor buried another 3-pointer in that stretch.
Salmen outscored Ellender 16-4 in the fourth quarter.
Rudolph, who scored a game-high 18 points, said the Spartans can do good things in Lake Charles if they play as they did Friday against Ellender.
“We have a good team,” he said. “We just have to keep it up.”